February 20, 2023

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Chemical Safety: Do I Need a Spill Kit? by Linda Chambers, Soap Warehouse

Chemical Safety: Do I Need a Spill Kit? by Linda Chambers, Soap Warehouse


Do I need a spill kit for chemical safety?

In a simple word, YES. If you carry any chemicals, you should carry a spill kit.

OSHA requires that if you manage hazardous materials – such as any corrosive or toxic chemical – you must carry a spill kit.

According to OSHA, “a spill kit is a collection of items to be used in the immediate response and clean-up of spills, leaks or other discharges of hazardous wastes or other hazardous materials (chemical spills). Spill kits should be maintained in close proximity to areas where chemicals are managed or stored to enable prompt response and clean-up of spills.”

To know what kit or kits you need, you first must know what chemicals you are carrying at any given time and then make sure you have a spill kit capable of handling what and how much you are transporting.

Spill kits come in various sizes and types and few are ones that can handle anything.

Check MSDS/SDS and chemical labels to see which type of kits you need.

Here are the types:

Universal or General – These handle most nonhazardous, non acid spills. As long as the kit is made to handle the volume of the spill, this in the type everyone needs to carry with any vehicle that transports chemicals.

Oil-Only – These contain absorbent materials made for oils, not water.

HazMat – These contain specialized PPE, absorption materials and removal devices above what a general kit would contain.

Acid – This is a specific type of HazMat kit. These contain specialized PPE, neutralization and absorption materials in addition to specialized removal containers. Note: Some acid kits are not made to handle hydrofluoric acid so make sure the neutralizer you get can. I recommend Spill-X-A.

No matter the type, OSHA guidelines state three types of equipment must be in a spill kit:

  • Proper PPE
  • Equipment to contain the spill
  • Equipment to clean up and remove the spill

Normally this is what is in any spill kit:

  • Labeling on outside stating what type of spill kit it is. It may also state the size spill it covers, but is not required.
  • A warning measure, to keep others away from the spill until removed
  • A-frame floor sign
  • Roll of caution tape
  • Hazard cones

PPE, personal protection equipment to use while removing the spill

  • Gloves – hand protection – minimum
  • Eye wear – eye protection – minimum
  • Mask – lung protection if needed
  • Shoe covers – foot protection if needed
  • Can include more when needed for type of spill

Physical barrier to place around the spill, such as a berm, bumper, or sock. This is used to contain which may not absorb the spill (Berm, bumper, sock).

Drain covers or plugs, to keep spills out of drains and pipes.

Absorption material – Sand, clay, pads, or other materials to soak up the spill.

Broom and pan or shovel, to collect loose soiled material for removal.

Removal containers

Bags, or other container that can be sealed to remove spill waste.

The size of the kit can vary as well. Always try to have and use a kit made to handle more chemical than you have spilled, but if you cannot, try to limit or contain the spill with the materials you do have on hand. For instance if the only thing you can do is lessen a spills impact by blocking a storm drain, stopping it from traveling down hill or out into a street, do that until additional help arrives, like the fire department. Additional spill kits or other materials can be brought to the contained spill for removal as soon as possible.

Here are a few examples of kit size.

Examples of spill kit sizes
Examples of spill kit sizes for chemical spills.
  • Small – Briefcase size for spills like in a lab or mixing area. Up to 300 cc’s of liquid
  • Medium – 300 cc’s to five gallons. Usually can fit into a five-gallon container
  • Large – More than 15 gallons of liquid. Usually in a large trashcan sized container. I like this Rubbermaid Roughneck Roll Box.

You do not have to buy a pre-made kit and there is no such thing as OSHA approved so do not fall for that sales trick. OSHA does not certify any specific brand of kits. A kit may say “conforms to OSHA requirements” or be called an OSHA spill kit. You can also make one yourself, sometimes at a much lower cost.

There is no certain color a kit must be, but bright yellow is the most common.

There is no specific type of PPE that must be used except what is listed on a label or SDS (e.g.,if the SDS states to use a respirator, or nitrile gloves or splash goggles).

There is nothing that says your kit cannot contain more than one type. To save space you can make a universal kit to include hazmat and acid parts (e.g., PPE and materials). Just mark the container saying so.

The most important thing is to have a kit when needed and know how to use it.

About the Author

Linda Chambers is Brand and Sales Manager for Soap Warehouse Brand soaps, part of Georgia Chemical Equipment Company. She enjoys writing articles, blogging, marketing for GCE and Soap Warehouse websites and social media. She also travels to exhibit and speak at trade shows and industry events. Visit them at www.soapwarehouse.biz.

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